Ten steps to IT consumerization success

Want to meet IT consumerization head on? Start by making your case to executives and rethinking security, file management and app delivery.

NEW YORK -- Administrators spend a lot of time trying to resist end users' whims, but the consumerization of IT is not just a passing phase.

At TechTarget's Modern Infrastructure Decisions summit recently, independent expert Brian Madden explained how admins can embrace consumerization while maintaining manageability and security. In his session, "Ten ways to make consumerization work for you," attendees learned about the pitfalls of resisting this trend and how to successfully support mobility in the enterprise.

With Madden's 10 tips, admins can get past their reluctance and take advantage of IT consumerization's benefits:

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1. Accept the reality. Smartphones and tablets aren't going anywhere fast, and IT needs to realize that the mobile workforce is only going to grow.

"If you want to figure out how to deal with consumerization in your organization, the first step is acceptance," Madden said.

2. Build your case. To convince management of the need for bring your own device (BYOD) management, start collecting stories of security or compliance problems that have happened with users bringing their own devices into your organization. Build "a book of anecdotes" to share with higher-ups and prove to them that you can't just let mobile devices run rampant.

3. Move past the desktop. Traditional end-user computing technologies, such as Terminal Services and virtual desktop infrastructure, focus on the Windows desktop interface. Forget about trying to fit Windows apps and desktops onto mobile devices, because they weren't designed for those form factors. If you do, users will simply go out and start downloading their own mobile apps that work better.

4. Deal with mobile devices. IT needs to learn how to manage enterprise mobility, but mobile device management (MDM) tools aren't always the answer. "MDM doesn't solve consumerization," Madden said, because it's just an attempt to lock down devices that people bought because of the freedom they offer. Consider less heavy-handed approaches instead.

5. Implement file syncing. Users need access to services such as Dropbox, Box, Microsoft SkyDrive or Citrix Systems' ShareFile to keep their files synced across multiple devices. If you're wary of consumer-focused services, there are enterprise-friendly alternatives.

"You can do modern file sync without having to go to the cloud," Madden said.

6. Don't give up on data protection. Just because you can't protect all data in the IT consumerization era doesn't mean you shouldn't protect any of it.

"We have data that's created by the organization and data that's created by the user," Madden said. "The data that's created by the user, you'll never be able to secure."

Luckily, you can secure corporate data by using email client security and other tools, so IT should make sure to do so.

7. Rethink network security. When it comes to mobile device connections, you need to approach network security in a different way. For instance, people assume you can trust on-premises users more than remote ones, which isn't always true, Madden said. Your office network may not be as secure as you think, so make sure you have the proper security certificates for mobile devices and keep track of user downloads -- even in the office. In fact, it's best to assume that all networks are unsecure.

8. Mind the capabilities gap. More and more, end users have better technology capabilities in their homes than what they have access to at work. If they are used to a large high-definition screen with quality sound at home, they'll want those features in the office, too. Try to keep up with users' needs, or they will be more likely to reject what IT provides.

9. Remember what BYOD really is. BYOD is "not about technology," Madden said. "It's about who bought the device." As such, it may be a business-side or legal-department problem, but it should not be an IT problem. All IT needs to do is manage the users, regardless of who bought the device.

10. Strike a balance between lockdown and freedom. There is a spectrum between complete device lockdown and total freedom, and IT needs to find a balance. Users tend to want freedom, but admins have to reach a happy medium that provides security and meets compliance requirements.

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